The book, by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, describes how Milley and the other Joint Chiefs discussed a plan to step down, one at a time, instead of carrying out orders from Trump that they considered illegal. , dangerous or unwise.
The book tells how, for the first time in modern American history, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, whose role is to advise the president, prepared to confront the commander-in-chief over fears of a coup attempt after Trump’s election. November had lost.
The authors explain Milley’s growing concern that staff movements that put Trump supporters in positions of power in the Pentagon after the November 2020 election, including the resignation of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the resignation of Attorney General William Barr, were the sign of something sinister. come.
Milley spoke to friends, lawmakers and colleagues about the threat of a coup, and the Joint Chiefs chairman said he should “be wary” of what might come.
“They can try, but they won’t fucking succeed,” Milley told his deputies, according to the authors. “You can’t do this without the military. You can’t do this without the CIA and the FBI. We’re the guys with the guns.’
In the days leading up to January 6, write Leonnig and Rucker, Milley was concerned about Trump’s call to action. “Milley told his staff he believed Trump was fueling unrest, possibly in hopes of an excuse to invoke the Insurrection Act and call in the military.”
Milley viewed Trump as “the classic authoritarian leader who has nothing to lose,” the authors write, and saw parallels between Adolf Hitler’s victim-and-savior rhetoric and Trump’s false claims about voter fraud.
“This is a Reichstag moment,” Milley told aides, according to the book. “The Gospel of the Führer.”
Ahead of a pro-Trump “Million MAGA March” in November to protest the election results, Milley told aides he feared it could be “the modern American equivalent of ‘brownshirts in the streets’,” referring to the pro-nazi militia that fueled Hitler’s rise to power.
“This is all real, man”
Rucker and Leonnig interviewed more than 140 sources for the book, though most were given anonymity to speak candidly to reconstruct events and dialogue. Milley is widely quoted as coming across in a positive light as someone who tried to keep democracy alive because he thought it was about to collapse after receiving a warning from an old friend a week after the election.
“What they are trying to do here is overthrow the government,” said the friend, who is not named by name, according to the authors. “This is all real, man. You’re one of the few guys who stand between us and some really bad stuff.”
Milley’s reputation took a big hit in June 2020, when he joined Trump at his controversial photo op in St. John’s Church after federal troops violently dispersed a peaceful crowd of social justice protesters in Lafayette Square outside the White House. To make matters worse, Milley was wearing military camouflage clothing during the incident. He later apologized, saying, “I shouldn’t have been there.”
But behind the scenes, the book says Milley was on the front lines protecting the country, including an episode where he tried to stop Trump of firing FBI Director Chris Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel.
Leonnig and Rucker recount a scene in which Milley was in a suite with Trump and his top aides during the Army and Navy football game in December, publicly confronting White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
‘What is going on? Are you getting rid of Wray or Gina?’ asked Milly. ‘Come on chief. What the hell is going on here? What are you doing?’
“Don’t worry,” Meadows said. “Just some staff relocations.”
“Be careful,” Milley replied, writing Leonnig and Rucker as a warning that he was watching.
‘That makes no sense’
The book also sheds new light on Trump’s descent into a dark and isolated vacuum of conspiracy theories and selfish delusions after he was declared the loser of the 2020 election.
After the January 6 uprising, the book says Milley held a conference call every day with Meadows and then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Leonnig and Rucker report that the officials used the calls to compare notes and “jointly scan the horizon for problems.”
“The general theme of these calls was come or hell or high tide, there will be a peaceful transfer of power on January 20,” a senior official told the authors. “We have a plane, our landing gear is stuck, we have one engine and we are out of fuel. We have to land this bad boy.”
Milley told aides he saw the calls as an opportunity to keep an eye on Trump, the authors write.
Leonnig and Rucker also recount a scene where Pompeo visited Milley’s home in the weeks leading up to the election, and the two had a heartfelt conversation at the general’s table. Pompeo is quoted as saying, “You know the madmen are taking over,” according to people familiar with the conversation.
The authors write that Pompeo, through a person close to him, denied making the comments attributed to him, saying they did not reflect his views.
In recent weeks, Trump has attacked Milley, who is still the chairman of the Joint Chiefs in the Biden administration, after he testified before Congress about January 6
‘Your f**king did this’
The book also features a number of notable anecdotes about prominent women during the Trump presidency, including GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former First Lady Michelle Obama.
The book chronicles a telephone conversation the day after the January 6 uprising between Milley and Cheney, the Wyoming Republican with close military ties. Cheney voted to impeach Trump and has been an outspoken critic of his election lies, leading to her ouster from the House GOP leadership.
Milley asked Cheney how she was doing.
“That damn guy Jim Jordan. That bastard,” Cheney said according to the book.
Cheney bluntly told Milley what she witnessed on the House floor on Jan. 6, as pro-Trump rioters raided police and forced their way into the Capitol, including a run-in with Jordan, a staunch ally of Trump in the House who feverishly tried to overthrow the elections.
Cheney described to Milley her exchange with Jordan: “As these maniacs go through the case, I’m standing in the aisle and he said, ‘We need to get the ladies out of the aisle. Let me help you.’ I slapped his hand away and said to him, ‘Get away from me. Your f**king did this.’”
‘crazy’, ‘dangerous’, ‘maniac’
The book reveals Pelosi’s private conversations with Milley during this tenuous period. When Trump fired Esper in November, Pelosi was one of several lawmakers who called Milley. “We all trust you,” she said. “Remember your oath.”
After the January 6 uprising, Pelosi told the general she was deeply concerned that a “crazy,” “dangerous” and “maniac” Trump could use nuclear weapons during his last days in office.
“Ma’am, I guarantee these processes are very good,” Milley reassured her. “There will not be a nuclear weapon fired by accident.”
“How can you guarantee me that?” asked Pelosi.
“Ma’am, there’s a lawsuit going on,” he said. “We will only follow legal orders. We will only do things that are legal, ethical and moral.”
A week after the uprising, Pelosi led Trump’s second impeachment by the House Democrats for inciting the uprising. In an interview with the authors, Pelosi said she fears another president might try to pick up where Trump left off.
“Maybe we get someone of his kind who is healthy, and that would be really dangerous because it could be someone who is smart, who is strategic, and the rest,” Pelosi said. ‘This is a slob. He doesn’t believe in science. He does not believe in governance. He’s a snake oil salesman. And he is cunning. Give him credit for his cunning.’
The book quotes Trump, who had a tense relationship with Merkel, telling his advisers during an Oval Office meeting on NATO and the US relationship with Germany: “That b*tch Merkel.”
“’I know the f**king krauts,’ the president added, using a derogatory term for German soldiers of World War I and World War II,” Leonnig and Rucker write. “Trump then pointed to a framed photo of his father, Fred Trump, standing on the table behind the Resolute Desk and saying, ‘I was raised by the biggest muff of them all.’”
Trump, through a spokesperson, denied the authors who made these comments.
‘Nobody has a bigger smile’
After January 6, Milley participated in a drill with military and law enforcement leaders to prepare for President Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20. Washington was on lockdown over fears that far-right groups like the Proud Boys could try to violently disrupt the transfer of power.
Milley told a group of senior leaders, “Here’s the deal, guys: These guys are Nazis, they’re boogaloo guys, they’re proud guys. These are the same people we fought in World War II. We’re going to do a steel ring around this town and the Nazis don’t come in.”
Trump was not present at the inauguration, in a notable break from tradition, and the event passed without incident.
As the inauguration ceremony ended, Kamala Harris, who had just been sworn in as vice president, paused to thank Milley. “We all know what you and some others have done,” she said, according to the authors. “Thank you.”
The book ends with Milley describing his relief that there had been no coup, thinking to himself, “Thank God the Almighty, we landed the ship safely.”
Milley expressed relief in the moments after Biden was sworn in as he spoke to the Obamas who were in the inaugural stage. Michelle Obama asked Milley how he felt.
“Nobody has a bigger smile than me today,” Milley said, according to Leonnig and Rucker. “You can’t see it under my mask, but I can.”